When a polarizing player like Tom Wilson ends up on the winning side of a suspension appeal, the response from the masses is predictably negative. Wilson’s latest dirty hit, a check to the head of St. Louis Blues forward Oskar Sundqvist, was as bad as any in Wilson’s murky history and few batted an eye at the resulting 20-game suspension. Yet, his appeal’s final stage landed with a neutral arbitrator who took issue with the NHL Department of Player Safety’s use of a multiplier that was not rooted in the Collective Bargaining Agreement nor was it supported by precedent. Just like that, Wilson’s suspension was reduced to 14 games and he is right back on the ice tonight for the Washington Capitals. Unsurprisingly, fans, pundits, and competitors alike are not impressed with the decision:
- One of the few happy to see Wilson back early is Washington GM Brian MacLellan and even he is treading carefully on the subject. MacLellan sat down with NHL.com’s Dan Rose and made it clear that Wilson has to change his game if he wants to stay on the ice. “We’ve talked about it numerous times,” MacLellan said, “there are certain hits that he just has to stop trying… He’s going to have to avoid some hits and he’s going to have to let up on some hits also. You can’t have the same force because he hits hard and it looks bad, and sometimes he’s going to be evaluated on the force.” For MacLellan and the Caps – who signed Wilson to a massive six-year, $31MM contract this off-season – they simply need Wilson to stay active and contribute, as they’re paying him to do. “At the end of the day, missing 15, 16 games, it can’t happen,” Wilson himself commented on the incident. The question now is whether or not MacLellan and the team can actually influence Wilson into changing his playing style.
- One fellow player frustrated with both the process and result is Pittsburgh Penguins veteran Matt Cullen. Cullen, 42, has been around longer than virtually every other player in the NHL today and knows a thing or two about how the game operates, or at least how it should. Cullen told Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that “When the next CBA comes up, that’s something we (should) address… I don’t think anybody is real happy with it.” Mackey points out that Cullen is unlikely to still be around when the next agreement is negotiated, but the opinion of a respected player still carries weight. Cullen is disappointed not only in the reduction of the suspension – the rival Penguins are no fans of Wilson – but more so in how it occurred. “I don’t think it’s a good look for our league, for our game to need to go to appeals… You’d like the headlines to be about the play on the ice and the players, not the other (stuff) going on outside of the game… I think most guys probably don’t love that — that it got reduced in that manner as far as going to appeal after appeal.” Interestingly, neutral arbitration is very much a player-friendly process that the NHLPA fought for. The idea is to take away any bias from the league by allowing a third party to review all of the facts independently. Yet, Cullen makes a good point that the ordeal is lengthy and not ideal optically either. Especially given that the Department of Player Safety is run mostly by former players, perhaps Cullen speaks on behalf of all players that in the next CBA they would be better off with eliminating the independent arbitrator.
- And what of the arbitrator himself? Shyam Das has been a thorn in the side of the NHL, but likely won’t be for much longer. While an independent arbitrator, Das is employed by the league for his services. In overturning Wilson’s suspension, Das has now decided for the player in each of his three cases for the league: Wilson, Nashville Predators forward Austin Watson, and then-Calgary Flames defenseman Dennis Wideman. Each of those three cases were high-profile and concerning a sensitive subject; Wideman attacked a referee, Watson was accused of domestic assault, and Wilson is the league’s most notorious “thug”. In each instance, the NHL would have very much liked to have seen their decision hold, only to have Das contradict them. Das was fired by Major League Baseball for similarly one-sided decisions and his time with the NHL will likely end the same way.
League defiantly has the grounds to get rid of das and should. All 3 big cases that in no way should have been reduced as much as they were. Wilson should be still suspended and Watson should have served the whole thing as well. Look at baseball and football domestic cases and the epidemic that is there, need to through the book at players in those cases to send a message. And how the heck did the guy who overturned Braun’s suspension. Get a job guy was 100% cheater
MLB and the NFL both canned him prior. NBA the next stop for Das?
Das thinks OJ was innocent and that he’ll find the real killers any day now.
And, he’s got that dogged-pursuer of justice Frank Drebbin on the case!
…and if Frank can’t get the job done, it’ll be Nick Danger, Third Eye!
Das sounds like that annoying uncle who comes into town for the weekend and just sits there playing devil’s advocate about literally every topic that comes up.
Oh and just in case anyone one is thinking “Surely the suspension will have made an impact on Tom and he will think about his actions”, he ran over a goalie tonight. Didn’t even try to stop himself, just destroyed the dude into the net. Then got in a fight next shift where he dropped his gloves before the puck was dropped.
I’m a Caps fan an on occasion I think Wilson goes too far, but goonism has been part of the game for a very long time. Will he slow up, not happening, not his style. So chances are he will end up suspended again and again. Take it to the bank!
And dropping gloves before the puck is dropped is nothing new…so Work on the cry baby routine!
Coming off a lengthy suspension, one would think that Wilson would not have come close to a goalie and would be avoiding fights in the first game back. Yesterday I said he would last 15 games before he gets suspended again. After last night, maybe 5……..
By the way, goonism was a big part of the game but has not been for the last 5-10 years. The game has evolved and if the league does not really eradicate what elements are left, they will be out of business because of legal messes that will bankrupt the league.
Ryan suter not exist in your world?
I hope you say this about every minor penalty for a guy coming back from a suspension.
As I said before nothing with this goon shocks me anymore. He won’t change his game until he kills someone or permanently disables them. Absolutely classless bum shouldn’t be allowed to continue playing any sport at any time.
This arbitrator has a history of sucking. Why does the NHL use him?
NHLPA shows again that it cares little for its injured players – only for buffoons like Wilson.
I hope the NHL hands out a 40 game suspension to him next time. Then when its reduced to 25 at least he’ll have to serve his time.
Hockey is better without Tom Wilson playing.
First off, he served a 16 game suspension which is enough. Second, Wilson scored a goal on the play that he got a goalie interference penalty which makes no sense. That was obviously a reputation penalty and furthermore, Suter was the one that took out his own goalie and not Wilson. How anyone thinks that is OK is ridiculous. Third, Foligno and Wilson agreed to drop the gloves before the face-off as Minnesota had just scored a goal and were trying to get something going hence the fight.
So, Wilson scored a goal and was involved in another one by crashing the net and drawing the defense to him. Posts like the ones here are why guys like Das are needed and why leagues hate him. He makes decisions without emotions which is what literally everyone else does and this is why he always reduces suspensions IMO. That’s what it means to be “neutral” which is very hard for many to grasp especially when it comes to someone like Wilson. Das went by the rules agreed upon in the CBA and everyone hates him? I don’t get it. No wonder leagues don’t like him. If leagues didn’t make decisions based on untethered emotions and bias, there’d be no problem. Removing truly neutral arbitrators would be a mistake.
The league is soft enough and should not be discouraging physical play. All Wilson has to do is stop hitting the head, that’s it. Maybe 16 games was enough. I want to see occasional fights, physical play and bone crushing checks. Just not to the head.